Again the propsperity of The Children of Spirit began to grow. Now that the merchants from Tr could not go to The Southern lands, The Children of Spirit had control of an important trade route. Though they never cheated their neighbors, this advantage was profitable to them. They grew wealthier and stronger than ever. The lands below the desert were croweded and many of their people came north, some keeping their old gods, but many began to worship Spirit. Many new clans were added to The Churches' Roster.
2 For fifteen years all was well. Then, one day a messenger appeared from The Valley of Shadows with distressing news. The garrison was under attack. The King of Tr was again attacking The Land Of Spirit. Gray Boar, in charge of the defenses, knew he could hold for a few days, but not for long. The Old Fox quickly sent him reinforcements, and called the rest of the army in. But messengers arrived from Southern with disturbing news.
3 Just before the news of the attack had arrived Gray Dove had been taken ill. He now lay delirious, with a high fever! He could not lead the army...he could not even stand! The Old Fox called a council, and had the Warlocks already there called in. "Gray Dove cannot come," he announced, "he is terribly ill. Who shall lead the army? Who shall command the attack?"
4 The people discussed for many minutes, then one of the Warlocks came forward. "Sir," he cried, "we are all in agreement. Besides Gray Dove, Bold Fox, your nephew, is our best military leader. He has proved himself on the battlefield again and again, and his campaign against the bandits in the badlands below his city are well known He is well respected by all the Warlocks, and we are sure he'll be an able leader."
5 The Council of Elders merely nodded in agreement. "Very well," agreed The Old Fox, "he is coming overland with his fighting people. As soon as he arrives, I will give him the word. He is the Warlock In Command."
6 So it was, when Bold Fox reached Northern he got an unexpected surprise! "First Speaker," he pleaded, "there are other, better Warlocks than I. Surely one of them should take command."
7 "Your brothers in arms," answered The Old Fox, "have chosen you. They want you to lead them. There is little time for discussion. Gray Boar has already held the Valley of Shadows for six days. He cannot hold it much longer. Already we have word that the earthworks at the head of the Valley have fallen, and they have fallen back to the new ones at the further end. They are buying us time with their lives, but they cannot hold forever."
8 The Old Fox had no way of knowing that at that very moment Gray Boar was filling his earthworks with the last of their feed for their cattle,, and as the enemy attacked, put fire to it. Under the cover of the flames, and the smoke, his men withdrew.
9 For eight more gruelling days they held and retreated, held and retreated down through the pass, until they reached the earthworks at the further end. Here, they held three more days, but that was all they could do, even with reinforcements that had arrived, the numbers against them were too great, and two-thirds of their numbers were gone. Under the cover of darkness they fled.
10 Legends would be written about the battle they had fought. The enemy poured out of The Valley of Shadows, cleared the woods, and immediately burned the grass and built earthworks before the rest of the army even came out, and sat up their tents. But this took them many days, and every move they made was watched. But a day's journey away, Bold Fox was encamped, gathering his army, and he got unexpected reinforcements.
11 One day his people cheered, as Strong Wall and a vast number of his fighting people marched into camp. "My troops are at your disposal," he told Bold Fox. "The new High Chieftain sent us as soon as he heard word of the attack. But he is greatly displeased that you sent no request for our aid. Are we not worthy to fight at your side?"
12 Bold Fox was taken back. "Worthy are your people at our side in any endeavor," he replied, "but this is our fight. We meant in no way, to offend you, or, your leader. But we do not ask friends to shed blood for us."
13 "We are not friends," said Strong Wall, "we are brothers. You took bread from your table and fed us when we were hungry. When our people were sick, you made them well. Any who raise their hands against you, raise their hands against us. Any who threaten your children threaten our children! It is the way it has always been, it is the way it will always be!"
14 Bold Fox was pelased. "I have been working on a plan," he announced, "for battle. With your arrival it has become firm in my mind. Look, I will show you."
15 Two days later, the enemy's camp was stirred into action when they heard the sound of trumpets and saw The Children of Spirit marching up the road. They came out into the field and formed ranks four deep, their lances at the ready.
16 The Tr leader looked at them. "We outnumber them three to one," he cried, "we will make quick work of them this day. Let us get out and meet them quickly, before the sun starts to set, and is in our eyes."
17 So the army of Tr marched out, took up their ranks, and charged. They met a solid wall that would not yield, and for several minutes the battle raged furiously. Then, slowly, surely, The Children of Spirit began to fall back. Further and further into the narrow passage they retreated. The steep hills on either side made the enemy reluctant to try to flank them.
18 "Throw in the reserves!" cried the Tr leader. "We have them beaten. Now, they are finished!"
19 This is what Bold Fox had been waiting for. He signaled his trumpeters and they blew two long, shrill calls.
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